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Friday, December 16, 2011

The 10 Best Bay Area Hip-Hop Records of 2011

Posted By on Fri, Dec 16, 2011 at 9:56 AM

After years of being overshadowed, Bay Area hip-hop finally began grabbing lots of national attention again in 2011. And for good reason: this year saw blistering releases from newer arrivals as well as hot records from local legends. Join us as we round up the 10 best hip-hop records from the Bay Area that came out during the last 12 months. Here they are, in no particular order:

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State Of The Arts

[Door 442]

The breeziest in the Bay, Honor Roll producer and rapper Trackademicks' solo debut is a marvel of sophisticated, synth-laden production and astute, educated raps. The uptempo title track is utterly uplifting without ever becoming corny, "Stop It!" with Mistah F.A.B. is a lesson in low-end slap, and "Fool On The Hill" -- with a stand-out guest spot from Phonte -- pulses along with a highly hypnotic groove. Intelligent, positive and danceable, State Of The Arts testifies to Track's motto of creating the best notes from the fresh coast. -- Phillip Mlynar

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Feast or Famine EP


Following up last year's excellent full-length debut, this Fillmore District rapper issues even more gripping beats and labyrinthine rhymes on Feast or Famine. DaVinci's greatest talent is his ability to paint compelling, real-feeling portraits of the place he knows best, and that's done with great detail here on tracks like "Paying for My Past" and "Nothing Like Home." But DaVinci isn't all grim social commentary. "Smoke the Night Away" and "Beer, Bitches, & Bullshit" show a more fun side of the 'hood -- along with the hangover. -- Ian S. Port

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Revenue Retrievin' Overtime Shift

Revenue Retrievin' Graveyard Shift

[Heavy on Grind Entertainment]

E-40 used to have a saying that, when it came to recording, he would "make like a pregnant lady and drop an album every nine months" in order to stay active in the mix. He's gotten considerably more fertile since that impressive pace of years past -- now he likes to have twins and give birth to two albums at a time. This year's continuation of the Revenue Retrievin' series logs 38 songs in all, for which the Vallejo-born word-bender filmed a handful of music videos. Even after a couple of decades working at this, 40's still running lyrical marathons, and still deftly translating the work ethic and mindset of a drug dealer and hustler into vivid storytelling. These songs are also a showcases for several generations of local artists, ranging in age from '70s soul crooner Lenny Williams to E-40's son, Droop-E. Leaving for Los Angeles or New York might have boosted the rapper's career at a time when he was selling platinum records, but Revenue Retrievin' shows the fruits of his staying rooted in Bay Area soil. -- Tamara Palmer

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Golden Era Triple Pack

[The Council]

Del might be raking in the dough after his stint voicing one of the Gorillaz characters, but the Golden Era project sounds like he's rapping for the giddy kicks of enjoying his craft. Ostensibly meant to invoke the vibe of hip-hop's revered early '90s, this is a whopping triple-album project -- but it never gets tiresome or slips into cliché. Del raps on point and with his usual quirky aplomb, while the beats are more nuanced than your usual retro-rap workout. Extra points for great use of the barb "doofus" on the opener, "Break The Bank." -- Phillip Mlynar

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